Paul Forster
Assistant Professor

Department of Chemistry

University of Nevada Las Vegas

4505 Maryland Parkway

Box 454003

Las Vegas, NV 89154-4003


Phone: (702) 895-3753

Fax: (702) 895-4072

Email: Paul



Research Program

Current research efforts in my group can be divided into five related aspects: materials discovery, hydrogen storage, technetium/actinide chemistry, systematic synthesis studies, and structure elucidation.  Projects typically will involve several of these areas.


Materials Discovery represents the heart of our research program.  Throughout history, the importance of new materials is so pivotal that periods are often classified by their utilization (Stone age, Bronze age, Iron age…). New materials, and improved versions of existing ones, are still at the heart of technological advancement.  We specifically seek to discover new materials with nanoporosity, meaning the presence of an ordered array of accessible cavities allow small molecules to reversibly enter and exit particles of our materials.  Of particular interest are materials where the pores are active towards specific molecules as can occur when accessible transition metal sites are present and accessible to the cavity.  An example of such a nanoporous material, nickel succinate, is illustrated below.



Figure 1:  Nickel succinate displays a honeycomb array of pores lined by the hydrophobic portion of the organic building block.


Hydrogen Storage has been identified as a key obstacle that must be overcome in order for hydrogen to become a practical fuel by the Department of Energy.  The challenge of developing a material that can store hydrogen reversibly, safely, and economically offers an important goal toward which to direct our efforts.  Although many nanoporous material have currently been studied for hydrogen uptake, the major obstacle is that their surfaces do not interact sufficiently with hydrogen for them to work at room temperature.  Our goal is to synthesize materials containing significant numbers of coordinatively unsaturated metal centers capable of interacting with hydrogen sufficiently for ambient temperature applications.  Related to this are ongoing projects to study the fundamental interaction between hydrogen molecules and surfaces through a combination of gas sorption, temperature programmed desorption, and inelastic neutron scattering studies.  Our characterization work will include both materials made within the Forster group as well as collaborative studies of important materials made by our collaborators.


Figure 2:  Inelastic neutron spectra used to characterize an interaction between hydrogen molecules and Ni(II) sites in a sodium nickel 5-sulfoisophthalate material.


Technetium/Actinide Chemistry is of particular importance to Nevada due to the proposal to store high level radioactive waste at the Yucca mountain site.  As storage is planned, it is important to understand what compounds could form in the waste, particularly if the waste is released into groundwater.  Due to the heat generated by radionuclides, near hydrothermal conditions are certainly possible, but the hydrothermal chemistry of actinides is poorly developed, and that of technetium is virtually unknown.  We are beginning a project to better understand the chemistry of these elements, particularly with respect to hydrothermal conditions.  While relevant to waste  storage problems, this project also offers us the opportunity to better understand these unusual elements.



Figure 3:  A new molecule containing a rare Tc-Tc triple bond, recently prepared by Frederic Poineau.  The structure was determined by Prof. Forster in Mar., 2008.


Systematic Synthesis Studies:  An important aspect of synthesis is understanding how reaction variables determine which possible products might form.  However, for the formation of materials involving both inorganic and organic building blocks under hydrothermal conditions, very little systematic work has currently been published on the subject.  The figure below shows some of Prof. Forster’s previous work with the variable of temperature, demonstrating that a simple reaction could be used to produce five different cobalt succinate materials using temperature as the only adjustable parameter.  This work was later applied to multiple variables in this system using high throughput hydrothermal methods to produce a crystallization diagram for this system.  Future work will examine different variables and study how well the observations from cobalt succinate may be applied to new systems.  Knowledge gained from this area will be used to refine our efforts at materials discovery.


Figure 4:  Five different cobalt succinate structures that can be produced from one specific reaction by adjusting the reaction temperature




Figure 5:  A crystallization map for the cobalt succinate system for the reaction variables of temperature and pH.


Structure Elucidation is the most important method by which our group characterizes new materials.  Our primary tool, single crystal x-ray diffraction, is a powerful technique to precisely determine the arrangement of atoms for a new compound.  While this method has become routine for many cases, some new materials present unique challenges such as disorder, twinned or low quality crystals, or crystals too small for conventional laboratory diffractometers.  Consequently, we use synchrotron microcrystal diffraction to determine the structures of materials that cannot be solved in the laboratory.  Structure determination is performed both on materials synthesized within our group as well as on materials provided by collaborators.  We currently have programmatic access to the Advanced Light Source (sector 11.3.1) in Berkeley and occasionally submit proposals to the Advanced Photon Source (11-ID-B) in Chicago.




Figure 6:  a: A Bruker Apex II single crystal diffractometer, as used by our group for routine structure solution. b: The Advanced Light Source in Berkeley.




Education and Research Experience


University of California, Santa Barbara

   Ph.D., Materials Science – Advisor: Anthony K. Cheetham.

Oregon State University

B.S. – Chemistry, Honors Scholar, Summa cum Laude – Advisor: A. W. Sleight.


- Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Nevada, Las Vegas - 1/2008 to present


- Postdoctoral Research Associate - Prof. John B. Parise, Department of Geosciences, Stony Brook University - 3/2005 to 12/2007


 -Graduate Researcher- Prof. Anthony K. Cheetham, Department of Materials, University of California at Santa Barbara - 9/1998 to 2/2005


 -Undergraduate Researcher - Prof. Arthur W. Sleight, Department of Chemistry, Oregon State University

- 6/1997-8/1998 and Prof. Kenneth M. Doxsee, Department of Chemistry, University of Oregon - 6/1994-9/1996 (summers only)




Spring 2008 :   CHEM 402 – Scientific Software


Most Significant Publications:

 A complete list (currently 25) may be found on my CV.  This list is intended as an aid to those interested in learning more about my research and is presented in order of my preference for them.


1.      “The Role of Temperature in the Synthesis of Hybrid Inorganic-Organic Materials: The Example of Cobalt Succinates” P. M. Forster, A. R. Burbank, C. Livage, G. Férey, A. K. Cheetham, Chem. Commun., 2004, 368.


2.      “Adsorption of Molecular Hydrogen on Coordinatively Unsaturated Ni(II) Sites in a Nanoporous Hybrid Material” P. M. Forster, J. Eckert, B. D. Heiken, J. B. Parise, J. W. Yoon, S. H. Jhung, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2006, 128, 16846.


3.      “Hydrogen Adsorption in Nanoporous Nickel(II) Phosphates” P. M. Forster, J. Eckert, J.-S. Chang, S.-E. Park, G. Férey, A. K. Cheetham, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2003, 125, 1309.


4.      A High-Throughput Investigation of the Role of pH, Temperature, Concentration, and Time on the Synthesis of Hybrid Inorganic-Organic Materials” P. M. Forster, N. Stock, A. K. Cheetham, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2005, 44, 7608.


5.      “Open-Framework Nickel Succinate: A New Hybrid Material with Three-Dimensional Ni-O-Ni Connectivity” P. M. Forster, A. K. Cheetham, Angew. Chemie Int. Ed., 2002, 41, 457.


6.      “Hybrid Inorganic-Organic Solids: An Emerging Class of Nanoporous Catalysts” P. M. Forster, A. K. Cheetham, Top. Catal., 2003, 24, 79.


7.      Effect of Mixing of Metallic Cation on the Topology of Metal-Oxide Networks” C. Livage, P. M. Forster, N. Guillou, M. M. Tafoya, A. K. Cheetham, G. Férey, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2007, 46, 5887.


8.      “Biphasic Solvothermal Synthesis: A New Approach for Hybrid Inorganic-Organic Materials” P. M. Forster, P. M. Thomas, A. K. Cheetham, Chem. Mater., 2002, 14, 17.


9.      Nickel(II) Phosphate VSB-5: A Magnetic Nanaporous Hydrogenation Catalyst with 24-Ring Tunnels”  N. Guillou, Q. Gao, P. M. Forster, J.-S. Chang, M. Noguès, S.-E. Park, G. Férey, A. K. Cheetham, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2001, 40, 2831.


10.  “A Thermally Stable Nanoporous Nickel 5-Sulfoisophthalate; Crystal Structure and Adsorption Properties” D. S. Kim, P. M. Forster, R. Le Toquin, A. K. Cheetham, Chem. Commun., 2004, 2148.


Last updated: March, 2008